11 Songs, 31 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

From its opening song, 1975’s Common Sense was a completely new look for John Prine. His first three albums had been produced by Atlantic’s in-house producer/arranger Arif Mardin, but Common Sense was produced by Steve Cropper, the Memphis-based guitarist and songwriter for Booker T. & The MGs. “Middle Man” is about as funky as Prine ever got. It’s a world away from the dry acoustic sound of his first album, and yet his skewed humor carries over: “If I could get the money in that coffee can/I could open me up a lemonade stand/Send all the kids off to Pakistan/Make Flo happy, if I can.” “My Own Best Friend,” “That Close to You," and “Saddle in the Rain” are similarly buoyed by R&B muscle. This setting is unexpectedly complementary to Prine, who still sounds like a lovably hoarse hayseed. As gratifying as it is to see him try something new, there's something magical about his country songs here, especially “He was in Heaven Before He Died,” “Common Sense," and “Way Down,” the last of which may be the sweetest, quietest depiction of depression ever written.

EDITORS’ NOTES

From its opening song, 1975’s Common Sense was a completely new look for John Prine. His first three albums had been produced by Atlantic’s in-house producer/arranger Arif Mardin, but Common Sense was produced by Steve Cropper, the Memphis-based guitarist and songwriter for Booker T. & The MGs. “Middle Man” is about as funky as Prine ever got. It’s a world away from the dry acoustic sound of his first album, and yet his skewed humor carries over: “If I could get the money in that coffee can/I could open me up a lemonade stand/Send all the kids off to Pakistan/Make Flo happy, if I can.” “My Own Best Friend,” “That Close to You," and “Saddle in the Rain” are similarly buoyed by R&B muscle. This setting is unexpectedly complementary to Prine, who still sounds like a lovably hoarse hayseed. As gratifying as it is to see him try something new, there's something magical about his country songs here, especially “He was in Heaven Before He Died,” “Common Sense," and “Way Down,” the last of which may be the sweetest, quietest depiction of depression ever written.

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